Mercedes: Red Bull-Inspired Sidepod F1 Test Resulted in “Significant” Downforce Reduction

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McLaren’s considerable progress with its Austrian/British Grand Prix package, influenced by both Red Bull and Aston Martin’s sidepod innovations, has left competitors contemplating if they should also radically shift their strategies.

Mercedes has consistently argued that modifications to the sidepod and bodywork do not substantially affect performance, despite rivals seemingly benefiting from alterations in this department.

At this year’s Monaco Grand Prix, Mercedes adopted a sidepod design more akin to Red Bull’s downwash approach, but hasn’t fully embraced it as other teams have.

Team principal Toto Wolff attributes this to the fact that when Mercedes experimented with a Red Bull-inspired design in their wind tunnel earlier on, it yielded no advantage, and actually made the car perform worse.

Nonetheless, given McLaren’s successful exploitation of the idea, Wolff suggests it might spur a reassessment and another attempt at the design.

When queried by F1 on why Mercedes hasn’t adopted the Red Bull concept despite others finding it beneficial, Mercedes chief Toto Wolff responded, “We tested the sidepod concept and the bodywork in the wind tunnel at an early stage to gauge the potential benefits.

“The decrease in downforce, as per our measurements, was quite significant. As such, we weren’t keen on pursuing this route early in the year.

“Are we planning to alter our design strategy? We have an excellent team of aerodynamicists led by James [Allison], and given the strides McLaren has made, I am sure they will consider it.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

Wolff maintains that the key to Mercedes’ improvement lies in extracting more performance from the car’s floor and underside, rather than the exterior bodywork.

“The sidepods and the bodywork are merely components of the chassis, and while they offer intriguing possibilities, the bulk of the performance is derived from the floor and the diffuser, the interpretation of regulations regarding which we are still unaware of.

“In my view, the observation that the high-performing cars appear somewhat similar when viewed from the side or from the top has played on our minds. This might be a good indication of the direction things are headed.”

Mercedes W14 new front wing comparison, British GP

Mercedes’ Upgrade Effort

At the British Grand Prix, Mercedes launched an upgrade featuring a new front wing aimed at enhancing car balance in low-speed corners.

While the endplate and flap intersection maintain their fundamental design, attention has been paid to optimizing every surface in this area.

The mainplane’s leading edge has been elevated to expose the wing’s underside to the incoming flow (indicated by a red line) and guide the flaps subsequently. All these have been reshaped at the tip to cooperate more effectively with the winglet stack protruding from the endplate.

The endplate now features a curved leading edge, departing from the previous squared-off design, with the entire surface leaning away from the centerline (red line). Changes to the endplate have also relocated the infra-red camera pod to a position further back and lower than before, with the pod tilted upwards as a result.

A design element first seen but not raced on the Mercedes W13’s front wing, and later adopted by Ferrari and Haas, has made a comeback. The external and topmost slot gap separator bracket now exhibits a winglet-like shape.

Design alterations are also evident in the upper flaps’ design, with a less curved design used across their span.

The fixed section closest to the nose has been tweaked, in addition to adjustments to the shape of the mainplane’s leading edge in that area and a reshaping of the nose tip section.

Also read:
Mercedes ready to shift full focus to 2024 F1 car and leave behind “Diva 2.0”
Mercedes indicates reconsideration of Red Bull F1 mimic
Why Red Bull’s patience ran thin with de Vries amidst Ricciardo’s revival

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Mercedes F1 sidepod design

Q: What prompted Mercedes F1 to reconsider their sidepod design?

A: McLaren’s success with their Red Bull-inspired sidepod design prompted Mercedes to reconsider, despite initial downforce loss. They observed the gains made by McLaren and are now contemplating another attempt at the design.

Q: Why did Mercedes not adopt the Red Bull sidepod design initially?

A: Mercedes tested the Red Bull-inspired sidepod design early on in their wind tunnel and found a substantial loss of downforce. As a result, they decided not to pursue it at that time.

Q: What does Mercedes consider as the key to their performance improvement?

A: Mercedes believes that unlocking more performance from the car’s floor and diffuser, rather than visible bodywork modifications, is crucial for their performance improvement.

Q: What upgrade did Mercedes introduce at the British Grand Prix?

A: At the British Grand Prix, Mercedes introduced a new front wing aimed at improving car balance in low-speed corners. The design modifications focused on optimizing the wing’s performance and enhancing aerodynamics.

More about Mercedes F1 sidepod design

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